Ordered under the 1912 Building Programme, H.M.S. Warspite was the second of the five "Queen Elizabeth" class battleships built just before the Great War and which were, in the words of Dr. Oscar Parkes, "the most perfect example of the naval constructor's art yet put afloat." A magnificent addition to the fleet when ready for sea, the "Queen Elizabeth's" were the first battleships to mount 15in. guns, the first to steam at 24 knots and the first to be fitted with oil-fired boilers; they also had the greatest metacentric height of any British capital ship for forty years and were widely acclaimed by all who served in them.
As was usual, the orders for the five ships went to different yards, with that for Warspite going to Devonport where her keel was laid on 31st October 1912. Launched on 26th November 1913 and completed in February 1916, she displaced 27,500 tons and measured 646 feet in length with a 90 foot beam. Mounting 8-15in. guns augmented by 14-6in. guns, she regularly carried 20 torpedoes for use in her 4-21in. tubes and she had protective armour of varying thicknesses throughout her upperworks with a 13in. belt amidships. Her Parsons turbines, manufactured by Hawthorn Leslie, produced 77,510hp. on her trials to give the required speed of 24 knots and it was noted then that the absence of smoke from her twenty-four oil-fired Yarrow boilers was in marked contrast to the dense clouds common to her coal-burning consorts elsewhere in the navy. With bunkers for 3,400 tons of fuel oil, she had an excellent range at cruising speed and was commissioned with a complement of 951 officers and men when she entered service early in the spring of 1916. Attached with her sisters Barham, Malaya and Valiant - to the 5th Battle Squadron of the Grand Fleet, she was in action at Jutland when hits by enemy shells jammed her steering gear and forced her to steam in a wide circle towards the North Danish coast. With all enemy guns trained on her, she suddenly answered her helm again - apparently due to another shell explosion - and was able to resume her station without further problems. In all she sustained thirteen hits during the battle, although none caused damage as severe as her unfortunate collision with Valiant in August 1916 which kept her out of service for some considerable time whilst repairs were effected.
Assigned to the Atlantic Fleet in 1919, she underwent a refit from 1924-26 and afterwards served with the Mediterranean (1926-30, Atlantic (1930-32) and Home (1932-34) Fleets before being withdrawn for a major reconstruction which lasted three years and cost 3 million. Returning to the Mediterranean in 1937, she was at Alexandria when war was declared in September 1939 and, ordered home, she was initially despatched to Halifax, Nova Scotia, to escort the first contingent of Canadian troops back across the North Atlantic. April 1940 found her in action at the second Battle of Narvik - as flagship to Admiral Whitworth - but the following month she went back to the Mediterranean as flagship to Admiral Cunningham. Almost continually under fire thereafter, she played a key role in the Battle of Matapan (27-30th March 1941) whilst during the battle for Crete she managed to avoid all but the very last of over 400 bombs aimed at her with the final string causing serious damage to her port side. Following temporary patching in Alexandria, she made her way to the Bremerton Navy Yard at Seattle - via Singapore and Pearl Harbour - for more permanent repairs after which she was sent to Colombo (Ceylon) to join the Eastern Fleet. After a spell in the Far East, she was recalled to the Mediterranean to support the Allied landings at Salerno (in September 1943) where her highly successful bombardment, including 35 direct hits, earned well-deserved praise from VI Army Corps. Later in the same operations however, she was severely disabled by enemy radio-controlled bombs on 16th September and had to return home, via Malta and Gibraltar, for major repairs. These were still unfinished when she was brought out to support the D-Day landings only to strike a mine which resulted in yet another lengthy lay-up. The last major operation of her long and distinguished career was to assist the landings in the Scheldt in November 1944 and she was withdrawn from sea duty soon after the War ended.
In March 1946, the Admiralty announced that she was to be retired and, despite a storm of public protest, Warspite was sold for scrapping that July. Defiant to the last, she was under tow to the shipbreakers on 23rd April 1947 when she ran aground at Prussia Cove, Cornwall; resisting all efforts to refloat her she was abandoned and slowly dismantled in situ.